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Investment in land and water in Cambodia - Chann Sinath

Chann Sinath, Deputy Director, Irrigated Agriculture Department
Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology. Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Cambodia is bordered by Thailand in the west and by Laos and Thailand in the north, by Viet Nam in the east, and by the gulf of Thailand in the south (Figure 1). The total land area is 181 035 km2, consisting of 24 provinces, including two municipalities and 172 districts. Forest areas cover 12.1 million ha or 67 percent of total land area. The cultivated area is 3.78 million ha or 21 percent excluding land mine areas (Table 1). Rice cultivation in 1999 was 2.08 million ha, or 91.2 percent of total cultivated areas.

Population is currently estimated at 12 million, growing at annual average of 2.8 percent and with a population density of 51 persons/km2. It is a notable sex imbalance: 52.2 percent are female and 47 percent male, and a high proportion of are in younger age groups because of decades of conflict. The current per capita GDP (US$290) is considered one of the lowest in the world. The agricultural sector is Cambodia's top earner in the national economy, accounting for 75 percent of all employment and 45 percent of the GDP in 1994. Cambodia is a rice - producing and exporting country with favourable natural conditions for paddy cultivation.

The overall goal of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) is poverty eradication through socio-economic development. Thirty - six percent of the population is estimated to be below the poverty line. Strategies for attaining these goals focus, among other things, on improved access to public services, provision of safe drinking water and sanitation (particularly in rural areas), improved infrastructure and increased agricultural productivity to achieve food security. The water sector helps achieve many RGC development goals. Irrigation supports agriculture, and therefore the achievement of food security, poverty reduction and socio-economic development. Water supply and sanitation meet the needs of the urban and rural populations, as well as their health requirements, and contribute to the achievement of better living standards. Drainage and sewerage support improved health and living standards while hydropower development aims at socio-economic development. Inland navigation moves goods and passengers from one place to another, and facilitates tourism. In general, water contributes to the livelihood and food supply of the population by providing fish, animal protein and aquatic plants.

Under Article 59 of the 1993 constitution, “the State shall protect the environment and balance of abundant natural resources and establish a precise plan of management of land, water, air, wind, geology, ecological system, mines, energy, petrol and gas, rocks and sand, gems, forests and forestry products, wildlife, fish and aquatic resources”. By this provision the state recognizes the value of natural resources, including the resources of water and land, as strategic for the country's development and the enhancement of the welfare of the people.


Land use and cultivated areas in Cambodia

Land Use Group

Area (ha)

I. Natural Area

12 000 200

A. Forest

1. Mainly evergreen forest

6 283 400

a. Broad leafed forest

4 816 000

Dense broad leafed forest

361 700

Flood evergreen forest

61 400

Mangrove forest

528 900

Mosaic of evergreen or deciduous forest and secondary vegetal formations

Mosaic of flooded forest, swampy vegetation, fallow land

157 200

Secondary vegetation

358 200

b. Pine forest (P. merkusii)

9 800

2. Deciduous forest

6 007 000

B. Other vegetation

1 529 200


95 600

Scrub, brushwood

102 600

Grass savannah

129 000

Grassland susceptible to flooding

822 900

Swampy vegetation

379 100

II. Cultivated areas

3 785 000

Paddy field

1 377 100

Paddy field with palm trees

1 309 200

Mosaic of upland crops and secondary vegetal formation

839 400

Mosaic of field crops and fruit garden/rural area in the lowland

174 400

Plantation (rubber)

84 900

III. Other land usages

539 100

Bare land and sandy banks

51 500

Open water areas, rivers

487 600


18 153 500

Source: Data from Irrigated Agriculture Department, Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MOWRAM)


Ancient history

From time immemorial, water management has been a primary concern for the Khmer people. Agricultural production, central in the economy of our early civilizations, relies on it. Due to irregular patterns of rainfall with dry spells during the growing season, the annual inundation and variations in micro relief, water management is quite difficult and, depending on local circumstances, varied methods have been developed since the earliest emergence of Khmer civilization. Numerous varieties of rice well adapted to differing local conditions were developed.

Three types of farming can be distinguished:

Floodplain farming: These farmers grow broadcast rice watered by natural flooding in two major floodplain areas from the first centuries of Cambodia's history. One is today's Korat plateau in northeast Thailand, while the other is the Mekong River delta, now mainly in Viet Nam. Settlements were characterized by year round availability of water, ease of land reclamation and a gentle flood regime. In those days, water resource development basically meant digging additional ponds, canals and moats. Some are quite large, even by today's standards. They often had multiple functions: serving as reservoirs for domestic use, supplementary irrigation in dry periods, stock and fish breeding and transport. By the tenth century, these locations were almost entirely abandoned, perhaps because of a change in the flood patterns or because of security reasons in the delta when pirates attacked settlements.

Bunded field farming: This practice was developed from the eighth century onward by reclaiming lowland forest into small bunded fields. It is estimated that more than 50 million bunded fields existed in the Angkor period. Agricultural and water management practices developed strongly and became much more labour intensive during that time. Rice is no longer sowed directly but is transplanted from nursery beds; fields are levelled. Many methods have been developed to distribute, retain and retard water during the rainy season or floods, including building small bunds or dams across valley floors of small streams (without reaching the sides of the valley) and digging ditches or building bunds parallel to main streams to trap receding waters or to store water flowing in from tributaries or adjacent areas.

Receding flood farming: Depending on local circumstances, the micro relief with depression, levees and tributaries, a great diversity of sophisticated receding flood farming practices have been developed in the floodplains of Cambodia. Water from the preceding flood and tributaries is retarded and spread laterally by bunds, small dams, dykes, ditches and stored in bunded fields, natural depressions and swampy areas or in various types of man made reservoirs. After the rainy season, supplementary watering is achieved by gravity from reservoirs or tributaries using ditches and/or simple water lifting devices. Often, rice is grown in the upper parts of the depression or reservoirs and water plants in the deeper parts.

Present methods of development

The methods described above are still widely practised in Cambodia. Intake and diversion structures, canals for the transport of irrigation and drainage water, and organization for operations and management.

Angkor Wat and super irrigation schemes: From the seventh to the thirteenth centuries a great civilization, called Angkor Wat (after its capital) developed near Tonle Sap, the Great Lake. To create a replica of heaven, walls, temples, roads and city moats were oriented according to cosmologically ideal directions, i.e. North - South and East - West, and so were their often huge rectangular ponds. After discovering the ruins of Angkor in the jungle, the French began restoration and the remains of this great past became the basis of a great national myth. The myth suggests that Angkor's ancient system of moats, ponds and canals, formed a 'super' irrigation system which not only was the basis for its rice - cultivation based wealth but that it also cannot be surpassed by contemporary water wisdom.

Recent history, the Sihanouk period (1953 - 1970): Inspired by the example of Angkor, Prince Norodom Sihanouk vigorously promoted upgrading water management, and self - help projects were planned and carried out countrywide by the local population under the supervision of local civil authorities or Buddhist monks. Little knowledge was required to rescale traditional structures into larger ones, using concrete instead of wood and woven rattan. Many reservoirs in the floodplains were formed by constructing dams. Traditional dams are low, overtopped by the slowly rising flood. Higher dams require intake structures able to be closed and a crest level above peak flood, because overtopping waters will cause too much damage to be repaired during short operating periods. Following establishment of the Mekong Committee in 1957 many project locations for large - scale dams were identified in the 1960s. A cascade of large hydropower dams, mainly in combination with irrigation schemes (up to 200 000 ha) was planned in the mainstream and major tributaries. Most of these projects hardly reached the feasibility phase. In Cambodia only the Prek Thnot project (about 70 000 ha) had been initiated before the war broke out in 1970.

FIGURE 1: Map of Cambodia and irrigation locations

The Khmer Rouge period (1975 - 1979): As during the Angkor Wat period, rice became the state's economic basis under the Khmer Rouge regime. Almost the entire population was forced to grow rice during the wet season and to construct water management and irrigation systems during the remaining five to eight months of the year. The country was to be turned into a super irrigation system, to become independent of rainfall. Those few persons with the required technical knowledge had either fled, been killed or were not consulted during this process. Prompted by the Angka, the polittcal centre of the Khmer Rouge, irrigation canals were not laid - out according to contour lines, but on the coordinates which were drawn on most 1:50 000 scale topographical maps. As a result, canals from this period are situated in North - South or in East - West directions having a distance between them of one kilometre. In this way a chessboard of canals was formed. Due to the inclination of the terrain, sections of these canals often slope in different direction than other sections.

Present situation: Today, more than 20 years after the Khmer Rouge regime, it is clear that only a small percentage of these structures can be incorporated in any future water management system, and they will require much additional investment. Most of the structures are useless or, even worse, disruptive to water management.


Government social - economic development requirements and proposals make several references to water resources and their management. Water is seen as contributing to Government priorities including poverty alleviation and economic growth principally as irrigated agriculture, seen as essential to addressing poverty by achieving food security and promoting income generation in rural areas. The importance of water is recognized also in the context of water for irrigation. Government proposals for public sector investment allocate about 22 percent of projected investment funds to the irrigation sector.

Rural agriculture dominates the Cambodian economy, accounting for nearly half of the gross domestic product and 90 percent of employment. Consequently, water policy as a whole and irrigation in particular, are significant factors in the development of agriculture leading to food security, poverty alleviation and commercialization. Today, the irrigation has been made available to only 16 percent of total cultivated area (Tables 2 and 3). Available data reveal that the country is using only 1 percent of its total water resources of which 82 percent is in agriculture. Double cropping in full or partial control irrigation schemes is minimal. Production in irrigated rice yields is too low - averaging some 2 tonnes/ha. Irrigation rehabilitation and construction are thus priorities set by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the active involvement of user farmers is deemed essential at every stage and level.

Rice ecosystems

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has defined four main ecosystems, three wet season and one dry season. The wet season systems compare: upland or mountain (2 percent), rainfed lowland (85 percent), including land with supplementary irrigated area, and deepwater/floating (4 percent). In the dry season (9 percent), the crop is fully irrigated or grown with supplementary irrigation either in deep flooded areas or on land exposed by the receding flood.

Wherever possible, supplementary irrigation is given during periods of low rainfall. Some modern varieties are grown in shallow water, but medium - and deeper - water rice varietes, accounting for 80 percent of lowland rice, are exclusively traditional. These traditional varieties will yield even if planting is delayed until September by late arrival of the monsoon, being photosensitive at reduced levels.


Total rice harvested and irrigated areas, 1999


Harvested Area, 1 000 HA

Irrigated Area
1 000 ha

Wet Season


Banteay Mean Chey





Siem Reap





Preah Vihear





Stung Treng




















Kompong Thom















Kompong Chhnang





Kompong Cham





Svay Rieng





Prey Veng















Kompong Speu





Koh Kong










Kompong Som





Phnom Penh





1 843 992


2 076 992


Source: Irrigated Agriculture Department, MOWRAM

Deepwater (floating) rice is grown where the water depth exceeds about 80 cm (up to 400 cm) in flooded areas around the Tonle Sap and in depressions along the Mekong River, mainly in Kampong Thom, Kompong Cham, Prey Veng and Takeo provinces. Most deepwater crops are dry seeded in April/May with seeds germinating with the onset of the rains. The depth and duration of flooding is dependent upon local rainfall and/or the height of the Mekong River. Areas may remain flooded for three to six months.

Dry season rice may be grown either as a fully irrigated crop at the end of the wet season, or in flood recession areas, normally with supplementary irrigation. Dry season rice is also now being planted in deep flooded areas in place of the more risky and lower yielding floating rice, that is grown in the wet season. Under these circumstances supplementary irrigation is normally provided. Mostly modern varieties are used, and yields are significantly higher than for the wet season crops.


Implemented irrigation methods in Cambodia (1999)


Irrigated area, ha

Wet season

Dry season


87 800

119 700

Pump Station

19 350

23 650

Mobile Pump

73 850

47 850

Traditional Lift

23 000

11 800


204 000

203 000

Source: Irrigated Agriculture Department, MOWRAM


After nearly three decades of war and civil strife, the Cambodian economy continues to be affected by a legacy of turmoil. Agriculture is the backbone of the Cambodian economy, and it depends on irrigation - supplementary irrigation for wet season crops and full irrigation for dry season crops. Most existing systems were damaged by natural deterioration due to inadequate finance to support forming Farmer Water User Communities (FWUC) to operate and maintain irrigation systems: government and donors (the Asian Development Bank and others) are not funding FWUC formulation.

The former General Directorate of Irrigation, Hydrology and Meteorology established a national policy called Circular No. 1 (hereafter termed CN1) on implementing policy for sustainable irrigation systems without testing and development due to a lack of financial resources. In 1999, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MOWRAM) was established, and it collected reactions to CN1 from farmers and NGOs, The ministry then organized two workshops - a regional workshop at Battambang for northwestern provinces and a national workshop in Phnom Penh - to assess participatory irrigation management and sustainable irrigation development, to develop CN1 and support documents. The ministry established a steering committee including all concerned MOWRAM senior technical officers a members chaired by the ministry Under Secretary of State. The committee reviewed CN1 to clarify and disseminate information to stakeholders. After endorsement and approval by the Minister of Water Resorces and Meteorology, creation of a Prakash 306 took place. Currently, Prokash 306 is endorsed, approved, issued and used for formulation the FWUCs.

Today, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology need the resources to implement Circular No.1 and Prakash 306 in existing irrigation systems by forming FWUCs and support operation and maintenance costs for the first phase of five years. These are aimed to experience in providing a greater role for empowerment of autonomous and self - reliant FWUCs. Other purposes are to make sure on transfer of authority over management and financing irrigation systems.


A major constraint on crop production is substantial seasonal and year - to - year differences in water availability, which severely limits the ability of rural households to consistently provide for their own food needs, much less grow crops for sale. This is due to problems in water management in Cambodia, including the abundance of water in the wet season and its shortage in the dry season. In the wet season, the main tasks of water management include additional water for supplementary irrigation, controlling, regulating, and managing floods to protect human lives, property and crops. In the dry season, available water resources must be shared, for instance, between domestic use, irrigation, navigation, fisheries, livestock and forestry.

A Mekong River Commission assessment of some irrigation systems built during the Khmer Rouge period noted that at least one big dam was built on each tributary of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap. These dams had dual functions, e.g. to store water and to act as regulation structures for the chess board irrigation schemes. Often they were located in the flat lowlands of the tributaries and cause long lasting inundation with a negative impact on agricultural production. Most have since been flushed away, or the river has eroded a new riverbed next to the dam. In the flood plains, especially around the Great Lake, many canals have been dug towards the lake, but instead of providing irrigation, they serve to drain water, and at velocities which cause erosion. Much back swamp forest has been turned into rice fields - with a negative impact on fish production. Most hydraulic structures failed because of design defects such as: 1) erosion and scour (no stilling basin, soil protection or cut - off walls were applied), 2) structural problems (concrete structures lacked rebar or rebar was placed in the wrong place, concrete was of poor mix, earth was not compacted and the base was not stripped), and 3) hydrology complications (in all known sluices the apron was too high and the width too small for the peak flood).

Almost no trained managerial personnel, means, capable organizations or databanks are present: a problem that is most strongly felt at provincial and lower levels. Compared to the need, the capacity of governmental organizations is far too weak, which results in a continued struggle in the field of water management. Farmers still using traditional water management methods are as dependent on the irregular rains as in the past and are often confronted with new problems associated with an altered water environment. Attempts to improve the situation (mostly requested by the farmers themselves) often fail and many recently built structures will collapse within a few years if they have not already done so. Why is this so? The only examples known by the responsible builders are the structures in their own neighbourhood or their own familiar methods and no other sources of knowledge are available. As a result, mistakes of the past are frequently repeated while improvements are achieved in a laborious trial and error process.


Rice cultivated areas by rice ecosystems (1999) and calendar

Rice Type

Harvested Area (ha)



Yield (t/ha)

Production (t)

Wet Season


48 138




67 393.2

Rainfed Lowland:

- early

371 553


end October


594 484.8

- medium

838 237




1 508 827

- late

529 495




900 141.5


56 569




73 539.7





708 320

Irrigated and recession

233 000




2 076 992

3 852 706.2

Source: Irrigated Agriculture Department, MOWRAM

The key constraint facing investment in agriculture is the poor state of the national economy: the ministry's budget is severely limited. Consequently, there are limited funds for technical survey and design, construction of irrigation infrastructure and operation and maintenance of existing irrigation schemes.

The main problems in provinces around the Great Lake and Mekong River in using high yield varieties of rice and other crop diversification and intensification include: (i) existing irrigation facilities have insufficient operation and maintenance funding (O&M), (ii) there are existing Farmer Water User Communities (FWUCs) but most farmers still do not understand the core concepts of O&M participation. While some know about community organization and development there is little action and low levels of application. Finally, (iii) such areas face annual floods and droughts.

Previously, there was no mechanism for charging farmers for water (except for pump stations in which case farmers bought fuel) so that the total cost of construction, operation and maintenance fell upon government. One dilemma facing MOWRAM was that without income from water charges it was unable to provide maintenance to keep existing systems operational and without good service, farmers were unlikely to be persuaded to pay even minimal water charges.

Farmers and local authorities often do not have the knowledge to improve and repair systems that are technically unsound. Many structures failed shortly after rehabilitation, e.g. the system did not perform as expected, and caused inundation problems. As a result, farmers are still confronted with water management problems and their energy and resources are unnecessary wasted. Moreover, there is no sound basis for sustainable management of the systems: it will be very difficult to incorporate many such existing schemes into further arrangements for water management and to develop confidence between the system managers and the system users, the farmers.

Landmines. In the aftermath of civil war some fertile agricultural land can still not be cultivated due to the presence of mine fields. Although about 3 200 km2 are reportedly mined (the total number of mines estimated at about 5 million) most mine fields are not found on riceland. Even so over one hundred persons are reported killed or injured by landmines each month. The main areas affected are Kampot and Kompong Speu provinces in the south and Battambang, Banteay Meachey and Siem Reap provinces in the north, as well as the entire border with Thailand. Mines have frequently been laid along roads and watercourses to deny access to water. Few minefields are reported east of the Mekong River.

Cambodia ranks 140th of 174 countries and is among the bottom 20 percent worldwide. It is 22nd poorest in term of US dollar per capita income. On this basis 43 percent of the rural population were living below the poverty line in 1994 - nearly 3.7 million people and 85 percent of all those classified as poor. There is a non - economic dimension to rural poverty. Government policy is clearly focused on reducing poverty by improving income and food security. To achieve this, national and donor investment in the FWUC formulation process is extremely essential for operation and maintenance the existing working irrigation and drainage systems including flood control because these are toward the target of real Agricultural Productivity Development and commercialization of the surplus.


Some 86 percent of Cambodia lies with the catchments of the Mekong River. Rising in China, the river passes through or borders Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam before discharging in the South China Sea. With a drainage area of 810 000 km2 and a total length of 4 425 km, the Mekong is one of the major rivers of the world. The mean annual discharge entering Cambodia exceeds 300 billion m3, and it is estimated that, with the contributions of downstream tributaries, some 500 000 m3 is discharged annually to the sea (Table 5).

An important feature of the Mekong system in Cambodia is the Tonle Sap. During the wet season, as the water level in the Mekong rises, the flow in the Tonle Sap river draining the lake to the Mekong reverse and the lake fills, reducing the discharge downstream of Phnom Penh. By September/October, the level of the lake may have risen by 3 to 4 m and the area extended to 10 500 km2. As the level of the Mekong falls, the water starts draining back, enhancing downstream dry seasonal flows, and the lake eventually shrinks to about 2 600 km2 and less than 2 m depth in the dry season. The annual rise in the Mekong causes extensive flooding downstream of Phnom Penh.


There has to date been no comprehensive investigation of Cambodia's groundwater resources, but there have been two preliminary studies, both by the US Geological Survey. The first was a reconnaissance of the lowlands to determine, among other things, the availability of groundwater for dry season irrigation. The second was a general description and evaluation of groundwater availability based on test drilling data and well records obtained in the course of a USAID rural water - well development programme at various times between 1960 and 1993. The programme drilled 1 100 wells, 72 percent of which were productive. Depths ranged from 2 to 209 m with an average of 23 m. Information is also available from well drilling programmes done since the 1980s by NGOs and others, in particular OXFAM and UNICEF. The latter drilled more than 5 000 wells countrywide at depths of 20 m to 50 m. Recently, JICA completed a detailed groundwater survey in Takeo, Kandal, Svay Rieng, Prey Veng and Kampong Speu provinces.

Except for occasional thin sandy beds and lenses, the alluvium is of low permeability, and water yields are very low, typically 0.2 litre/sec. Yields from sandy layers are higher, typically of the order of 1litre/sec. Wells yielding more than 3 litre/sec. are rare. Of almost 7 600 wells for which UNICEF have records, less than 3 percent have yields more than 10 m3/hr. To date no groundwater sources of sufficient potential for large - scale irrigation have been identified. Any use of groundwater for irrigation is thus likely to be restricted to small - scale vegetable and fruit gardens, especially those cropped in the dry season. In Cambodia, wells are categorized as hand tubewells, shallow tubewells, deep tubewells and treadle pump wells.


Hydrological characteristics of Mekong River tributaries


Catchment (km2)

Annual (million m3)

Discharge (m3/s)

Annual Runoff (mm)

Natural Low Flow (m3/s)

Se Kong

28 500

32 200

1 368

1 310


Se San

17 100

17 300


1 010


Sre Pok

29 450

29 800


1 010


Prek Preah

1 510





Prek Krieng

2 450

1 240




Prek Kanpi

1 150





Prek Te

4 170

2 530




Preg chhlong

5 750

2 910




Stung Chinit

4 130

1 360




Stung Sen

14 000

6 190




Stung Staung

1 900





Stung Chickreng

1 030





Stung Streng

3 210

1 140




Stung Sisophon

4 310

1 900




St Mongol Borey

2 700

1 980




Stung Battambang

2 135

1 960




Stung Pursat

4 480

1 660




Prek Thnot

5 050

1 560




Mekong at Kratie

646 000

441 600

13 974


1 750

Source: Mekong River Commission, 1994.


Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate with two seasons: the wet season, from May to October, resulting from the southwest monsoon and a dry season from November to April resulting from the northwest monsoon. Usually the wet season is disrupted by a short dry spell during two weeks in July or August.

The annual average rainfall is 1 200 - 1 500 mm and the annual average air temperature 21 - 350C. The relative humidity ranges from 65 - 70 percent in January and February to some 85 - 90 percent in August and September. The annual evaporation is 2 000 - 2 200 mm, being highest in March or April at 200 - 240 mm/month, and the lowest in September or October at 120 - 150 mm/month. The monthly average evapo - transpiration is 90 mm during the wet season to 120 mm for the dry season.


Modern irrigation systems were first developed over the period 1930 to 1953 during the French colonial period. These included the Bavel project in Battambang (30 000 ha supplementary irrigation), a number of bunded storage reservoirs, including Kompong Sne in Prey Veng (100 million m3), and Bat Roker and Lom Chang in Takeo (30 million and 6 million m3 respectively), and several colmatage (flood recession) canals.

Following independence, between 1953 and 1960, 11 major land and water development schemes were undertaken with the assistance of the United States, including partial rehabilitation of Bavel, damaged during World War II, and of a number of other schemes built during the French colonial period. New projects included 13 000 ha of irrigation based on the largest of the Angkor reservoirs, Barai Occidental, and more than 50 colmatage canals in Kandal and Kompong Cham, bringing the area served to some 17 000 ha. With completion of these projects, the area under formal irrigation amounted to 74 000 ha. The first stage (5 000 ha) of the multipurpose Prek Thnot project in Kompong Speu was started in the late 1960s. The project included construction of a dam to provide ultimately year - round irrigation of 70 000 ha, but was left unfinished due to the start of the war. Events during the 1975 - 1979 period have had a major impact on agricultural systems throughout Cambodia. Recognizing the importance of irrigation, Government organized the construction of diversion works, bunded reservoirs and other structures, supplying a rectangular grid of canals across a large part of the rainfed area. In many cases, however, the works were designed and built with little regard to basic hydrological and engineering principles. In many instances, traditional water distribution and drainage patterns were disrupted, performance was below expectations and structures were damaged or destroyed by floods.

An inventory of irrigation systems carried out in 1993 - 1994 by the Mekong Secretariat listed some 920 schemes totalling 310 000 ha in the country. In rainfed lowland systems, the distinction between irrigated and rainfed area is not, however, well defined; although not supplied through a formal distribution system, much of the rainfed crop receives water additional to direct precipitation. Irrigation of crops other than rice is largely confined to gardens.

In the wet season, supplementary irrigation may be through direct run - of - river diversion, pumping or by means of release of stored surplus runoff. In the dry season, when in the majority of rivers there is little flow, irrigation is only possible from storage, or by lifting water, either by pumping or by traditional methods, from residual flows, floodwater or on a small scale, from groundwater. Pumping from the dry season flows from canals and streams connected to the Mekong or Bassac river is becoming a popular and productive dry season farming systems in Takeo and Prey Veng provinces.

Development opportunities

Gravity irrigation. The development options for irrigation offering the greatest scope for extensive development in Cambodia are exploitation of the abundant wet season river and stream flows to provide supplementary irrigation for the wet season rice crop, and provision of storage facilities to allow carryover for wet season runoff or flood water for irrigation in the dry season. At the other extreme, the areas which can be supplied from the smaller streams, may be only a few hectares. In the dry season, flows, where they occur, are sufficient to irrigate only a minimal area. Gravity diversion has low operating costs and reduced reliance on mechanical equipment which, unless properly maintained, is prone to breakdown. Where channels are incised, however, diversion structures may be needed to gain command. There is also a need to safely pass flood flows, which can be very much larger than the flows which can be usefully diverted.


Principal rice soils of Cambodia


Soil Type

Area (ha)

Young Alluvial Soils


1 706 400

Lacustrine Alluvials


Brown Alluvial


Leached Acid Soils on Old Alluvium


included above

Poorly Drained Lowland Soils

Cultural Hydromorphics

1 289 600

Grey Hydromorphics

1 725 200

Imperfectly Drained Lowland Soils

Brown Hydromorphics

670 100

Acid Sulphate Soils


278 000

Source: Irrigated Agriculture Department, MOWRAM

Pump stations. Pumped abstraction is appropriate where provision of the work necessary for gravity diversion would not be practical, or in terms of the quantity diverted, excessively costly. However, experience in Cambodia with fixed pump schemes has been disappointing, for a number of reasons, including: inadequate water source or siltation; over - dimensioning or over - sophistication of the pump; use of fuel inefficient Soviet - designed pump; technically unsound irrigation schemes; and lack of maintenance. Pump schemes are vulnerable to poor maintenance. While capital costs of pump abstraction tend to be less than for gravity diversion, annual operation and maintenance costs are significantly higher: some US$80/ha/year for pump schemes as against US$20 - 25/ha/year for gravity irrigation schemes in Cambodia.

Mobile pumps. Averaging 3 hp, mobile pumps are used during the wet season to supply supplementary irrigation water from a convenient source to small areas of adjacent land that is out of command. In the dry season, they provide water for irrigation of the recession crop, where they replace traditional pedal pumps and scoops. They are used to a lesser extent to provide water from residual river flows and water stored in canals for irrigation of a second crop on terrace lands, and for irrigating vegetable and fruit gardens.

Shallow bunded reservoirs. Storage for wet season supplementary and dry season irrigation is provided by bunded reservoirs storing water at a depth of 1 to 3 metres. There are 2 800 such reservoirs countrywide. The water stored may derive either from upstream runoff or from impoundment of floodwater from rivers. In the wet season, reservoirs commanding terrace lands, as well as providing storage, serve also as diversion structures. The area supplied is reported as 200 000 ha in the wet season, and 65 000 ha in the dry season. Dry season irrigated areas generally range from very small to several thousand hectares, with the large areas being flood recession areas.

Colmatage canals. 'Colmatage' or warping canals are cut to bring silt - laden floodwater to low - lying land behind the levees of the Mekong and Bassac rivers. Set at a relatively high level, these canals are closed off from the river by a temporary bund until mid - August to allow harvest of the previous season's crop. The canals are then filled on the rising flood and then, when the flood falls, water is retained at the level of the canal inverted, allowing recession cropping. In some cases, a head gate is provided, allowing water retained at a higher level. On the lower land, recession crops are grown. The canals also serve an important fishery function permitting passage of brood - stock on to the floodplain.

Polders. The flood recession areas offer some of the most fertile soils. Polders to exclude floods could permit cultivation in the wet season. High external water levels, however, while facilitating supplementary irrigation, would necessitate pump drainage. In addition, excluding flooded land in the polder would deny it the silt upon which its fertility depends. It should be noted that most farmers also own terrace land on which they are already fully employed during the wet season.

Strategies for development of water resources

The use of water resources in general: to prevent conflicts among water uses for different purposes and in different areas, and create an environment conducive to the satisfaction of present and foreseeable demands consistent with environment protection. These include: planning water resources use and development in priority areas; licensing water uses; controlling groundwater abstraction and use; and cooperation with other parties to the 1995 Mekong Agreement to implement its provisions.

Development process

Irrigation and drainage: to expand irrigated area from 16.62 percent to 20 percent by the year 2003 given the high irrigation potential (1 667 300 ha or even more in the future), to enhance food security, provide job opportunities and increase the incomes of the rural population; and through irrigation improvement, to mitigate the effects of floods and other emergencies. Specifically called for are: rehabilitation of existing irrigation schemes; development of cost - effective, short - gestation, appropriate and private irrigation technologies; development of small - scale gravity irrigation systems; and the improvement and expansion of areas covered by medium and large irrigation systems as the institutional capacity for planning, construction and O&M of such systems is enhanced.

Water supply, sewerage and sanitation: to provide sufficient and safe water supplies to urban and rural areas, to protect the health of the urban and rural population, including: improvement of access to urban water supplies; expanding water service in rural areas; setting drinking water quality standards; drinking water quality monitoring; improvement of urban drainage and sewerage; expanding sanitation services, especially in rural areas and organizing health education programmes.

Hydropower development: to exploit the country's potential to improve the standards of lining of the population and reduce the present cost of energy, consistent which environment protection requirement, including: review of data and information on hydropower development; investigation of Cambodia's potential for hydropower development and setting priorities; assess project feasibility for multiple uses; planning hydropower development within the framework of overall water resources plans; assess the impact of each hydropower development project on the watershed concerned; financial sustainability of hydraulic infrastructure; introduction water use fee concept to cover the costs of service delivery and O&M; enhancing community participation in the design, construction, operation and management of hydraulic infrastructure; introducing user participation in managing rehabilitated and newly constructed irrigation schemes; and promotion of private sector involvement in the construction of hydraulic infrastructure.

Water resource protection: to improve water quality for present and future demands and ensure that water bodies have the capacity to sustain aquatic and fish life; to protect human and animal health to prevent water pollution from point sources; prevent water pollution from non point sources; and prevent groundwater pollution.

Control and abatement/reduction of flood effects and other hazards: to prevent damage resulting from floods, drought, watershed degradation, erosion and sedimentation; and to protect aquatic and fish resources, including: control of floods and abate/reduce their effects; improve weather forecasting to ensure timely warning regarding natural occurrences such as typhoons, floods and drought; preventing watershed degradation, erosion and sedimentation; protection of fish stocks; and cooperation and exchanging information with other Mekong Basin countries to prevent the harmful effects of floods, watershed degradation, erosion, sedimentation and drought that might originate in activities carried out in these countries

Policy, legal and institutional strategies: to create an 'enabling environment' for integrated water resources management and development, by means of: formulation and adoption of a coherent policy for the water sector as a whole; formulation of a comprehensive legal framework for water sector institutional coordination; strengthening the MOWRAM data base and information system to facilitate the integrated management of water quantity and quality and determining balance between availability and demand; strengthening the capacity of ministry staff at central and decentralized levels; disseminating information on water resources in public meetings, by radio broadcasts and publications such as leaflets and posters.

Planning framework

Development activities in Cambodia are planned within the framework of Five - Year Socio-economic Development Plans (SEDP), which are prepared by the Ministry of Planning on the basis of sectoral contributions from line ministries. SEDPs set out RGC policy and strategy and detail sectoral investment levels. The First SEDP ran from 1996 to 2000 and the Second SEDP, which is in final draft form, will run from 2001 to 2005.

An annual meeting takes places each year between RGC and development partners at which progress in the preceding year is reviewed, plans for the future discussed and funding commitments reaffirmed. The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), under the Prime Minister's Office, organizes this meeting. Before each annual meeting, CDC prepares the government's statement under the title Socio-economic Development Requirements and Proposals (SEDRP), including programme and project details and their funding requirements for the next three years.

Actual programme and project interventions are listed in a three - year rolling Public Investigation Programme (PIP). Each June/July, projects for inclusion in the PIP are discussed in the Ministry of Planning. Executive agencies prepare their annual work plans and corresponding budget requests on the basis of programme and project included in the SEDP and PIP, physical progress in previous year, new projects identified and the availability of funds is determined.

The ministry divides Cambodia into three planning zones, an Upper Area, and Central Floodplain and Coastal areas in part to facilitate an equitable distribution of development funds. It issued a Short, Medium and Long Term Strategic Plan in April 1999 including 63 projects (of which eight were ongoing), at a total cost of US$486 million. MOWRAM prepared a five - year rehabilitation and development plan (RDP) on water resources and meteorology for the Second Five - Year Plan (2001 - 2005). The plan is an ambitious programme with a comprehensive list of 874 projects costing Riels 2 062 billion (US$528 million) over five years. Annual budget for investing on the development of the water resources is illustrated in Table 7.

The PIP 2001 - 2003 lists 32 ongoing, committed and high priority projects under MOWRAM with a total value of $113 million, together with two 2000 flood - related rehabilitation project funded by ADB and World Bank valued at some $20 million.


MOWRAM Short and Medium Term Investment Plan



































Medium Term





















Expenditure by Plan Period

$7.5 million (1996 - 2000)

$190.8 million (2001 - 2005)

$200.3 (2006 - 2010)

Source: MOWRAM, 2001


In Cambodia, irrigation is the responsibility of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MOWRAM), established in 1998 and which previously was part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Its main functions are: (i) formulation of water policies; (ii) study and research; (iii) technical investigation for multipurpose dams, irrigation, drainage, water supply and river works; and (iv) planning, design and rehabilitation of existing projects and their operation and maintenance.

MOWRAM is headed by a minister assisted by secretaries and under secretaries of state. There are two divisions, administration and technical, headed by a director general and a Provincial Water Resources Department. The Technical Division has six subdivisions or departments: water resources management, hydrology and river works, irrigated agriculture, engineering and design, water supply and meteorology (Figure 2). The poor state of the national economy means the ministry's budget is severely limited. As a consequence, there is a lack of funding for technical surveys and design, construction of irrigation infrastructure and operation and maintenance of existing irrigation schemes.

For successful implementation of the irrigation development activities and for the sustainable operation and management of irrigation systems, the Government has entrusted the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology to review and evaluate all irrigation systems having the potential to effectively serve the development of national economy, standardize the statutes of the Farmer Water Users' Community (FWUC) to help facilitate and organize the farmers, to carry out feasibility studies and construct irrigation systems including diversions, intakes, outlets and canal systems to supply irrigation water to farmers' fields in an efficient and sustainable manner and to cooperate with the concerned ministries to create the FWUCs.

FIGURE 2: Organization structure, Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MOWRAM)


Donor assistance in development of the irrigation sector in Cambodia has been substantial. Many bilateral and multilateral institutions are involved in irrigation. The Mekong Secretariat (now the Mekong River Commission), prepared an inventory of potential hydropower and irrigation projects and was also responsible for the emergency rehabilitation of key irrigation structures damaged by floods in 1991 and initiated a longer - term countrywide irrigation rehabilitation study. The Asian Development Bank provided funds for Special Rehabilitation Assistance Projects that included irrigation. It plans to finance the Stung Chinit Water Resources Development Project, a large - scale irrigation scheme in Kampong Thom. To generate employment, ILO has instituted a labour - intensive infrastructure rehabilitation programme. In the irrigation sector, rehabilitation of canals and minor structures is being undertaken on the Bavel (Battambang) and Barai (Siem Reap) schemes. Funds are being provided by UNHCR, UNDP/CARERE, WFP and the Netherlands.

Japan's International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing US$10 million for floodplain area development and colmatage rehabilitation. The World Bank is extending a technical assistance grant of US$2 million to increase the capacity of MOWRAM staff. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) funded a pilot project on water control technologies. The European Union as part of the Programme de Rehabilitation au Secteur Agricole du Cambodge (PRASAC) is developing local capacities and building farmers association in the provinces close to Phnom Penh. The GTZ has been providing support for investigation and study of small - and medium - scale irrigation schemes in Kampot and Kampong Thom.

The World Bank - assisted Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (APIP) hydrology component focuses on capacity - building within MOWRAM nationally and at provincial level in Kampong Thom and Kratie provinces. APIP will provide training, technical assistance, vehicles equipment and staff allowances to develop and support the PSWRAM in Kampong Thom.

Non - governmental organizations

NGOs have been providing assistance to the agricultural sector since the early 1980s. Currently, 20 are involved with irrigation, providing materials and equipment and/or technical assistance, challenged directly to central, provincial or district authorities. Work has focused on rehabilitation of existing irrigation systems including repair of reservoir bunds and outlets works, provision and repair of pumps, and rehabilitation of canal networks and minor control structures. Selection of schemes has not been in conformity with a national plan. Schemes have been treated as isolated entries, often neglecting complex hydrological features and performance of the facilities created has often been unsatisfactory. NGOs have been involved since 1991 in organizing and promoting farmers' organizations, in particular water users groups, with a view to encouraging farmers' participation and involvement in planning and operation and maintenance of irrigation systems. All NGOs working in Cambodia are listed in Table 8.

The water sector potentially can contribute to many of the social, and the government has recognized, in the April 2000 Social - economic developments and proposals, “a need to develop a well - defined strategy”. In irrigated agriculture, elements of the current strategy include rehabilitating existing schemes, promoting the ability of communities to maintains and operate their own facilities, and investing (in the longer term) in multi - purpose reservoirs. The water sector will contribute in other ways to social goals, such as the provision of supplies of water for electricity and irrigation, but time will be required to develop appropriate goals.


Organizations active in Cambodia's irrigation sector (April 2000)







Siem Reap


On - going

Agricultural extension in medium - scale irrigation system (Barai system)


Kandal, Kampong Thom


Phase out

Investigation of small - scale irrigation and drainage, community development




On - going

Ministry responsible for irrigation and water resource development in Cambodia





Pump irrigation systems, organization of water user groups ag. extension, support to PLAC


Takeo, Banteay Meanchey



On - going


Small - scale irrigation and drainage, community organization of water user groups


Phnom Penh


On - going

Technical University producing rural engineers


Phnom Penh


On - going

Agricultural College teaching water resource technicians, meteorology


Kampong Chhnang Pursat



Phase - out

Small - to medium - scale irrigation and drainage structures



Pursat, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh


On - going

Irrigation and drainage consultants, small - and medium - scale systems, criteria for Social Fund


Prey Veng


On - going

Rehabilitation of network in medium - scale irrigation system (Kampong Sne), community organization of water user groups


Svay Rieng




On - going

Small - to medium - scale irrigation and drainage, integrated rural development, agricultural extension


Phnom Penh


On - going

Policy and coordination, information development, international agreements




Siem Reap,


Kampong Thom,

Kampong Cham



Special Programme for Food Security (Mlech, Bavel, Barai, Tuk Char, Thot Te Systems and others)





Phnom Penh


On - going

Floodplain irrigation development projects (colmatage), study of Kandal Stung system, technical assistance to MWR, hydrologic gauging, capacity building at MWR (planned)


Phnom Penh



Rehabilitation of meteorological network, technical assistance to MWR, Civil Aviation



Stung Chinit,

Kampong Saom,

Kampong Thom


On - going

Small - scale irrigation and drainage structures, integrate rural development, community organization (Prey Nop and Stung Chinit Projects)




Banteay Meanchey,


Siem Riep


On - going

Small - to medium - scale irrigation and drainage, ag. Extension, rural development, institution building, community development




On - going

Small - scale irrigation and drainage, community organization, hydrologic data collection


Prey Veng


On - going

Promotion of treadle pumps

Concern Worldwide

Banteay Meanchey,


Siem Reap


Phase Out

Small - scale irrigation and drainage


Siem Reap,




Labour - based medium - scale irrigation and drainage (Barai & Bovel systems), community organization

New Humanity

Kampong Speu


On - going

Small - and medium - scale irrigation and drainage, ag. extension, community development





Integrated Rural Development




On - going

Food - for - Work repairs to small - and medium - scale irrigation and drainage systems




On - going

Small - scale irrigation and drainage structures, community development, agronomy support


Kampong Charm



Small - scale irrigation and drainage development, community organization of water user groups



Kampong Speu


On - going

Promotion of groundwater irrigation, small - scale irrigation and drainage development



Prey Veng,

Kampong Cham,

Kampong Thom,

Phnom Penh


On - going

Special rehabilitation assistance loan for medium - scale irrigation development (Tuk Char, Kampong Sne, Thnot Te, O thom - completed), Stung Chinit Water Resources Development Project (on - going), capacity building in MWR (from 8 - 2000), Planning Community Irrigation Rehabilitation Project



Kampong Thom


On - going

Investigation and study of small - to medium - scale irrigation systems (Stung Pe), community development and agricultural extension support


Prey Veng,

Svay Rieng,





On - going

Promotion of treadle pump and appropriate technology for irrigation development




many other pilot locations


On - going

Groundwater irrigation pilot projects, soil and water management, agronomy research


Takeo, Kandal,

Siem Reap,

Kampong Thom,

Kampong Cham,



Bantheay Meanchey


On - going

Agricultural extension


Kampong Cham,

Kampong chhnang,

Kampong Speu,

Takeo, Prey Veng,

Svay Rieng


On - going

Medium - scale irrigation and drainage development, community organization, agricultural extension, credit

Japanese Embassy



On - going

Budgetary support for MWR rehabilitation of small structures in several provices


Kampong Saom,

Siem Riep,

Kampong Thom


On - going

Medium - scale irrigation development (Prey Nop, Makak and Stung Chinit Systems)


Kampong Cham,

Kampong chhnang,

Kampong Speu,

Takeo, Prey Veng,

Svay Rieng



Technical assistance for food - for - work irrigation and drainage projects in the 6 PRASAC provinces

Social Fund

Phnom Penh


On - going

Funding small - and medium - scale irrigation - and medium - scale irrigation and drainage systems

World Bank

Phnom Penh,

Kampong Thom,



On - going

Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project for small - and medium - scale irrigation and drainage development, training data. Northeast Rural Development Project for community development (MRD)

Law on water resources management

Cambodia's Law on Water Resources Management details a number of key policies for the water sector, such as:

Article 8 provides for “free water uses” for basic household needs, while other articles provide for licensing all other uses. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, local authorities began allocating land and houses on a wide scale, with a maximum holding of 5 ha. Private ownership of land - use rights (not land itself) was legally reintroduced in Cambodia in 1989, when it was declared that all Cambodians could own, use and inherit land - use rights granted by the government. The State of Cambodia Land Law (1992) allows citizens to acquire land - use ownership rights over land they have peacefully occupied for five years. However, the process of land titling has been cumbersome, so that less than 15 percent of applicants have received certificates of ownership (implying, strictly, that the remainder are illegal occupants, which provides them with no protection in the face of widespread land - grabbing by more powerful people). The poorest half of the population shares less than one quarter of the cultivable land, one family in six is landless, and there is extensive land speculation and aggregation by the wealth.

Disparities in access to agricultural land appear to be growing, due to population growth and fragmentation, forced sales to pay debt, usurpation of land by the more powerful and deficiencies in land law enforcement. It is estimated that 15 percent of total land area changed hands from 1993 to 1998, with the poor as net sellers and the wealthier as net buyers. Land disputes contribute the second highest number of legal cases in Cambodia. There have been further land reforms since 1998, but disputes are still occurring as a result of insecure tenure and illegal transactions and usurpation. Further reform and improvements in administration are anticipated in the government's Socio-economic Development Requirements and Proposals (Ref. 30) and the Immovable Properly Bill, which would reform the Land Law, is agreed by the National Parliament and Senate, and is approved and signed by the King of Cambodia.

The formulation of the manner in which the farmer water user community participates in irrigation management is very important. The Farmer Water Users Community (FWUC) is a mechanism established by farmers, and has the duty to manage water use in any irrigation system by obtaining due recognition from the Royal Government of Cambodia. The FWUC is leaded by the Farmer Water Users Community Committee under the Board of FWUC as the facilitators (Figure3).

FIGURE 3: Cambodia Farmer Water User Committee (FWUC) structure

Irrigation development, rehabilitation or extension programmes shall be implemented only on the basis of the feasibility and demand of the majority of the farmers. During the planning and implementation of irrigation projects full participation of organized users shall take place at all levels from the very beginning. Formation of FWUC shall therefore be the primary task leading towards the implementation of an irrigation project. Upon completion of the project, the responsibility of operation and maintenance and the emergency repair shall rest with FWUC gradually:

Irrigation service fee (ISF)

The actual irrigation service fee (ISF) is decided by FWUC following this formula:

Where, X is the O&M costs

X1 = expenditure on maintenance and repair

X2 = expenditure on fuel (for pumping)

X3 = expenditure as the contribution to the Community Board

X4 = expenditure on administration

X5 = expenditure on contingency

Y = ISF per hectare

One - fifth of the increased production remains in an FWUC bank account as a fund for emergency repairs and maintenance expenditures or for irrigation system and farm water management improvements. For simplicity, in the current situation the increased production of wet season irrigated rice compared to rainfed rice is estimated at about 0.7t/ha. The FWUC will therefore collect annually 140kg/ha of rice as its share of 20 percent increase in production. This should be continued for the first five years following which, depending on the financial situation, the FWUC may reduce the percentage (but to not less than 5 percent of increased production). The above expenditures apply only for the irrigation schemes constructed by the government fund and/or the support from international and national agencies.


The government objective in creating the participatory irrigation management programme is: (1) to receive efficient, sustainable, reliable and environmentally friendly irrigation systems, (2) to promote irrigated agriculture ensuring food security and national economic growth, (3) to gradually increase the role and responsibility of organized farmer users in every stage of programme implementation thereby decreasing government responsibility for development of the irrigation sector, including repairs, operation and maintenance, (4) to enhance the capability of the farmers and the Farmer Water User Community in managing and safeguarding the irrigation systems, (5) to promote awareness of the farmers in taking over management responsibility of government managed irrigation schemes and expedite the transfer process to the FWUCs, (6) to encourage international financing agencies to increase funding in developing and managing irrigation systems with active involvement of the user farmers, and (7) to bring about uniformity in the selection and implementation process of irrigation development and management among the government institutions and supporting national and international agencies involved in irrigation extension.


MOWRAM is involved in the following types of programmes and projects: institution building; policy/strategy/legislation; single/multi - resources surveys; area - specific single/multi - purpose planning studies; feasibility studies; detailed design and preparation of tender documents; construction; and operation and maintenance

A new national programme as a demonstration pilot on participatory irrigation management - including the design of farmer water user communities (FWUC), initial operation and maintenance cost provision to the new FWUCs. The first phase of this programme is five years. The national programme will cover 11 sites at existing working irrigation systems in 11 provinces. MOWRAM is the executing agency of this programme under ADB financing. Major programme objectives include: establishing FWUCs in existing working irrigation systems in provinces around the Great Lake and along the Mekong and Bassac rivers; operating and maintaining existing irrigation systems for increased agricultural productivity, poverty reduction, and improving food and income security; establishing FWUC support teams; and strengthening MOWRAM capacity building in participatory irrigation management (PIM), irrigation management transfer (IMT), national FWUC policy, monitoring and evaluating the performance of irrigation systems and FWUCs; and implementing, improving and developing Circular No. 1 of the implementation policy for sustainable irrigation systems in provincial project FWUCs.

The Rehabilitation Colmatage Canals Project funded by the Japanese Government in Kiean Svay district. The objectives of the project are to establish a farmer water user community of the beneficiary farmers for sustainable irrigation management of the irrigation systems, increase agricultural production and improve life standard of farmers through rehabilitation of the colmatage irrigation facilities.

The medium scale irrigation system development project funded by France. The project is located in Prey Nup, Sihanoukville. Its objective is to protect flood protection dykes (polders) from sea water to increase agricultural production by forming farmer water user communities. The project also aims to implement existing national policy on sustainable management irrigation systems, decentralization of services delivery, and empowering the planning and developing process in the operation and maintenance the irrigation systems.

The PRASAC project is financed by the European Union (EU) to cover 15 medium scale irrigation schemes in six provinces. The project purpose is to improve the food and income security via rehabilitated the existing medium scale irrigation schemes and organize the farmer water user community to sustain the operation and maintenance the rehabilitated irrigation system. The formation of farmer water user communities process follows existing national policies.

The results of these programmes and projects have illustrated changes and improvement the quality of the irrigation water management from non - discipline, non - effectiveness, and non - efficiency to discipline, effectiveness, and efficiency. The farmers understand and are interested in participating themselves as members of FWUCs. Farmers agreed to pay a substantial water fee to afford the O&M costs. Yields rose from 1.8 t/ha to 2.5 t/ha for wet season crops and from 2 t/ha to 3.5 t/ha for dry season crops. Crops and fruits were of improved quality. MOWRAM established 25 FWUCs with 37 739 families for an irrigated area of 40 780 ha. These FWUCs were started using existing national policies, scenarios and standards. Other data regarding the new programmes are still being researched and assessed.


Cambodia's investment in water resources and land in response to the special programme for food security (SPFS) is limited. There is a lesser impact of SPFS on agricultural productivity improvement than might be expected. FAO is not the donor, but it can share existing funding for SPFS with the Cambodian government for substantial benefit by using the participatory approach to inform, mobilize and organize farmer understanding of the importance of FWUCs and the responsibility and ownership for further O&M after construction and rehabilitation of the irrigation systems is complete. FWUCs must be established before irrigation rehabilitation and construction. All stages of design or redesign and reshape for construction and rehabilitation of irrigation systems must have FWUC involvement. Let all members of FWUCs know and understand how important the contribution of affordable water fees for O&M the irrigation systems.

The FWUCs must receive training on all aspects of water management including crop water requirement, frequency of irrigation, water distribution, some idea of the importance of participatory irrigation management, irrigation management transfer, and national policy for FWUCs from the multi - disciplinary support team for FWUCs assisted by the external FWUC experts.

Irrigation system development (O&M) should respond to FRUW requests. FWUCs should be involved from the beginning in surveys, planning, implementation of O&M, supervision and also during test checking of the facilities constructed. The proposed irrigation alignments and layout should be agreed with the FWUCs: their opinions should receive consideration.

Assessments of water charges must reflect both the value of water - especially in the dry season - and the cost of supplying it to the field. Farmers who can afford to pay the O&M cost (the water fee calculation) must follow the guidelines of Mowram Circular No.1. The basic principle of any pricing procedure is to ensure that water charges cover all O&M costs. All this must be included in the next investment implementation in water resources and land for SPFS in Cambodia.

Annex A: Ongoing Projects

Annex B: Medium Term Propects

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